Responsible Investment News

A lesson for investors: Real change involves the loss of power

There is no win-win when it comes to social change, says best-selling author Anand Giridharadas.

The former McKinsey consultant-turned New York Times columnist, was speaking at RI Australia 2021, run by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia, in a session addressing the question of how investors can use their power to address structural inequality.

At the heart of the discussion was the uncomfortable question of whether the responsible investment community is complicit in the charade of working to change the world only in ways that don’t jeopardise individuals’ own standing.

Giridharadas, who has cultivated a reputation for telling “inconvenient truths” to people in power, was unequivocal in telling the audience that real change involves the loss of power. Something he said we should embrace, and be honest about.

“Business people generally like positivity. Like win wins. I don’t think there is a win-win on social change,” he said.

“I think if you were to look around at your own society and think about what were the major gains that made society more decent and more humane, ask yourself, were they win-wins? Or did they actually involve the loss of power?” 

The theme is one he explored in his book, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.

He said the impetus for writing came from watching a paradox emerge where rich and powerful people and institutions were bending over backwards to change the world and give back philanthropically, while at the same time, the same people were benefiting from growing inequality and a concentration of wealth and power. 

“I began to wonder as a reporter, what’s the relationship between the extraordinary elite helping of our time, and the extraordinary elite hoarding of our time,” he said.

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